Body Language & Presence
A few months back on a Saturday morning. I was reading a favorite blog and a link sent me to Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on Power Poses. At first I was skeptical (I typically cringe when someone recommends a TED talk to me) but a few minutes into the talk I was completely wowed by her findings.
In her work, Cuddy finds that posture and body language directly impact testosterone and cortisone levels. These two hormones help shape how you feel about yourself. How you carry yourself has a substantial positive or negative impact on your confidence and either enhances or hinders your ability to succeed.
Cuddy’s big takeaway is that our bodies can change our minds.
Low Power Poses
Check out these examples of “low” power poses. Do you ever find yourself sitting like this in class or in a meeting? If you’re collapsing inward, protecting yourself, and making yourself physically small, you will end up feeling that way too.
Theory into Action
I ended up replaying her talk and watching it again. Then I promptly closed the computer and ran out the door. Yes, it was Saturday morning, but I needed to take care of something at my office right away!
I ran over to the empty office building and hopped the elevator up to our floor. My company had just moved into its new office space and I had selected a desk in the open office. I chose a desk adjacent to a wall thinking I’d be less likely to get interrupted or distracted if I did not have neighbors on both sides.
After working at my new desk for a few days, something felt “off” about this position. When colleagues came by to talk to me, especially taller men, it felt like they were hovering over me and backing me into the corner. It felt as if I was cowering in response. Until I watched Cuddy’s TED talk, I did not fully realize this was happening or how it was making me feel.
So that Saturday, I moved into an empty desk right in the middle of the open office space, facing out toward the bright open floor-to-ceiling windows. Now I feel centered in the space and on equal footing when people stop by to chat, not backed into a corner. When people do come by to talk to me, if they’re standing, I’ll stand too. Thankfully we have sit/stand desks – so that part is pretty easy!
Cuddy’s talk shares so many actionable tips for assessing yours and others’ body language and taking measures to boost your confidence and presence, especially before a stressful situation like a job interview or big meeting. Now I am more aware of how I carry myself and try to be even more positively, and actively present in a room and during meetings. I highly recommend watching her talk and then tuning into your own body language cues.
Cuddy also has a book out called “Presence,” which focuses on first impressions and the importance of building business relationships based on trust and warmth rather than pure expertise. I’ll definitely be grabbing a copy of that for the office.